The Year of Protest, Except Here?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The world witnessed many protests around the globe this year but none here in the US. Sudhir Venkatesh, professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Columbia University, author of the "Underground" column for The Daily and author of Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets discusses why protests around the world have not spread to the US (yet?).


Sudhir Venkatesh

Comments [26]

John A.

I'm reading up on the French Revolution. It seems to have been influenced by the American Revolution; Pre-Telegraph,pre-Internet, the information spread took 10 years, not weeks. That (the french) riot did in fact prove to be a one with redeeming value.

Aug. 17 2011 12:13 PM
jwescott from Brooklyn NY

Americans are seeing very little of what is actually happening to the masses in America, thanks to our corporatized news we are passively drugged on reality TV inundated by commercials, and the latest electronics keeps us distracted. We still see our country as not out to take us back to before social safety nets existed. We still do not see how coporations have sawed off the legs we stand on.

Aug. 17 2011 11:45 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

And I forgot to mention in my earlier comment how disturbing I find the nonchalant attitude some have expressed about rioting and the implication that rioting is the equivalent to protest.

Rioting is a purely destructive behavior and there is no excuse for it. Mobs act like dumb, violent, out of control animals. There is nothing RATIONAL about a riot. It is an expression of the worst aspects of our nature.

There is NOTHING redeeming about riots. In fact they often attack the innocent and most vulnerable targets.

And history has many examples that changes provoked by riots ultimately lead to the same or worse abuses than the institutions the riots topple.

And yet some people here are just talking about it as if it were just a walk in the park.

What are some of you people thinking?? You think things are bad now? If you were to ever experience rioting first hand -- in your your neighborhood; you'll be frightened out of your skin and have nightmares about it for years.

Aug. 17 2011 11:39 AM
C from Norwalk

The few peaceful protests the do take place in US are usually ignored and not covered by the mainstream media unless they are organized by the Tea Party. As an example, the half-million people that protested against the war on Iraq in 2003 in NYC was completely ignored by the media. It is considered "bad taste or barbarian behavior" to protest instead of seeing it as our right as civilians.

Aug. 17 2011 11:33 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

MichaelB -- spot on. Mass ignorance it is. Because we are distracted and overwhelmed and infantilized.

Aug. 17 2011 11:32 AM
Brian from Greenpoint

Yes, the media ignores this stuff. No mainstream media has time for real and complex investigations of protests and their complicated cause and effects. These programs follow a simple, largely scripted narrative arch that ends w/ a human interest story. They are canned and allow no room for honest assessments of why people would want to rebel in the first place.

When they do talk about rebellions, as was the case w/ the Arab Spring, the media quickly shifts from "protesters" to "rebels," labeling these figures as threats to civil society.

Aug. 17 2011 11:31 AM
Robert from NYC

Well the media are big corporations today! Adding them to my previous post, don't watch CNN, don't watch FOX, don't watch the media who don't report responsibly to it's viewers. Watch alternative media and news, e.g., Democracy Now, GritTV or whichever programs that offer stories the corporate media don't cover.

Aug. 17 2011 11:28 AM
Listener in Brooklyn from Brooklyn

I really object to the implication that protests equal riots.

Aug. 17 2011 11:28 AM
Peggy Ross from Beacon, ny

Altho I have no connection w/ demonstrations around the world, i'm of a generation that has strong connections w/demonstrations of the last 40 years. Altho I'm in no danger of looting, the income gap, the wars and the threatened fraying of the social safety net are sufficient reasons to entice me to join in street protest - what does prof.venkatesh foresee in the event of republican victories at the polls?

Aug. 17 2011 11:25 AM
Robert from NYC

We don't need riots we do, however, need the protests and lots of boycotting. Boycott the banks and businesses that have caused this financial situation. Where and Whenever you can don't support a particular business or bank by using their services. If there is an option use it. Change your bank, change you phone company, move your stocks, don't shop in a particular store or business. We have to show these folks we don't support what they're doing by hitting them exactly where it hurts and that's the bottom line.

Aug. 17 2011 11:24 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

On the PBS NewsHour last night or the previous evening, Paul Solomon interviewed people on line for the Letterman Show.

Overwhelmingly, most people are not aware of the inequalities of income and wealth in the US. They believe that things are much more equal than they actually are.

With such ignorance, why would they protest?

Aug. 17 2011 11:24 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie,NY

Yes, if Rick Perry gets elected, there will be no place for many...then we might see riots!

Aug. 17 2011 11:23 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

I think only a lack of food will make the citizenry rise to riot. And as long as we can afford the dollar menu, we will be mollified.

Aug. 17 2011 11:22 AM
Me from nyc

We have been beaten into submission and feed a steady stream of garbage from politicians and the media. We are constantly told that it is our fault that we are not in the 1% of Americans that control 99% of the wealth in thus country. And we blame anyone (Verizon workers) who stand up and for their rights and refuse to take whatever crumbs corporate America throws at them..

Aug. 17 2011 11:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Disparity in wealth has traditionally NOT been a cause of rioting in America. Much more so in Europe where wealth was often associated with aristocratic "blue blood" privilege, whereas in America as long as you had the freedom of attaining an opportunity to get rich yourself, the tendency to covet was more attenuated. As long as you believed you had the freedom to reach for the brass ring, the main tendency here was to keep the government out of the way and set "animal spirits" free.

Other societies are still trying to get rid of ingrained privilege going back generations and even centuries.

Aug. 17 2011 11:20 AM
h l from bklnl

its a combination of:
1. "waspy mannerism"
2. passive aggressive
3. strong middle class - people are busy working and distracted as consumers

Aug. 17 2011 11:20 AM
Cate from Brooklyn

I can't help but think of the protests that happened in my hometown of Toronto during last year's G20. It really seemed as if the intelligent, informed protestors and their issues were totally subverted by thugs and people looking to get on the news; this, in turn, was reacted upon by police in the worst way, leading to a horrible situation. Seems riots tend to get exacerbated by the bad choices of people involved in the heat of the moment.

Aug. 17 2011 11:20 AM
Brian from Greenpoint

Whenever the "youth" are listed as failing the cause, we should all remain wary of media spin. Now that ten years have passed from Seattle and the WTO protests, we should remind ourselves that the youth is still very much engaged in active and quite militant social protest here in the West. The media, on the other hand, work in concert with the government to minimize these actions. I wonder if even today's commentary lends support to these simple and easy dismissals of hard leftist protest and actions?

Aug. 17 2011 11:19 AM
Kate from Manhattan

Could you address the history of rioting? I don't mean since the 1960's - I mean throughout human history. It seems to me that riots throughout history always indicate a significant disparity in wealth. Is that true? Are there academic studies on the cause of rioting? Again, I mean let's include ancient times, the middle ages, etc. Thanks.

Aug. 17 2011 11:11 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

Hey, RON SANECKI, speak for yourself. (With all due respect.) I don't know the "us" you refer to. And, whoever they are, they should know that it's gaining on them too...

Aug. 17 2011 11:11 AM
Marc from Brooklyn

Socialism has set its roots, that engender such an untoward sense of entitlement, in American soil -- thankfully.

Aug. 17 2011 11:09 AM
desdemona finch from brooklyn

I can't afford a pitchfork to protest with.

But I'm considering starting a company that manufactures environmentally friendly torches and shanties for future shantytowns we'll have on Wall Street. Now that's American ingenuity for you. However, I cannot get a loan, being a little person and all.

Aug. 17 2011 11:06 AM
Ron Sanecki from Keyport, NJ

Most of us are well enough.
When things get worse, we demonstrate and protest.
When things get real bad, some do riot.

Aug. 17 2011 11:04 AM
RBC from NYC

Its easier to cover protests in other countries (when comparing them to the US) because most countries are much smaller and the protests more concentrated. There are protests going on all over the US, but they're for different reasons and its hard to track them all because they're spread out over the land mass that is the US.

Aug. 17 2011 10:53 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

...also, other information technology -- like message boards, which allow us to vent and FEEL like we're doing something when we're not, and general information overload that we have not yet learned to adequately filter and harness..

Aug. 17 2011 10:07 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

Doped out on gadgets.
These provide escapist stimulation like the drugs they are, with degenerative behavioral effects on discipline, self-control, attentiveness...Ergo, we have ended up distracted and without the awareness, information and discipline required to counteract the mobilization bias all poor and working class people face.
But we CAN get past this. We must.

Aug. 17 2011 10:01 AM

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